Irish pig producers to get another £11m in government aid

Irish pig farmers are to benefit from a further aid package, worth around €13m (£10.8m), to help them cope with rising feed and energy costs.

The measures will be funded from Ireland’s €16m (£13.3m) share of a €500m (£416m) EU aid package, allocated to member states in response to the “exceptional” impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

See also: Welcome jump in pig prices for farmers

Under the new package, Irish pig farmers will be eligible for a maximum payment of €70,000 (£58,000) per business, subject to certain conditions.

“This supplements the €7m (£5.8m)  exchequer-funded scheme announced last month, which was put in place to support the sector in the face of existing market disturbances, now considerably exacerbated by issues arising from the war,” said agriculture minister Charlie McConalogue.

Support is also being provided to the horticulture sector, with an aid package of €2.8m (£2.3m), to support glasshouse and field vegetable producers, mushroom growers and commercial apple producers.

Conditions

According to media reports, one of the conditions being attached to the package is that pigmeat production should be reduced by 10% – though this is yet to be confirmed.

Irish Farmers Association president Tim Cullinan said any attempt to impose a mandatory reduction on farmers would be strongly opposed.

“We have seen the difficulties this has created with the BEAM scheme [Beef Exceptional Aid Measure, which paid beef producers £83/head in return for a 5% reduction in manure output].

“It seems the department has failed to learn any lessons from this.”

According to estimates by Teagasc (the state advisory service), the average pig farm is losing nearly €60,000 (£50,000) each month.

It is also estimated that 7% of Irish pig farmers have already been forced to exit, with a further 20-30% at “serious risk” due to the “unprecedented” escalation of feed costs since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We acknowledge the €13m fund, but the payment of €70,000 per single undertaking is only going to cover the losses on an average-size 600-sow unit for circa six weeks,” said pigs committee vice-chairman William Murphy.

Departures

The IFA is concerned that, even with the new aid package, there will be further business departures. It is therefore calling on the processing sector to be “part of the survival of the pig sector”.

“We need to see a substantial increase in the price of pigmeat urgently,” said Mr Cullinan.

“If retailers are serious about having Irish pigmeat on the shelves, the increase needs to be passed back along the supply chain to keep farmers viable,” he said.

Pig farmers had acknowledged a price rise of 20cent/kg (16.6p/kg) for their pigs two weeks ago, but this was wiped out by the increase in feed cost the same day, according to the IFA.

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